On the translation of hapax apothanein as “once die” in Hebr. 9:27

Hebr. 9,27 is often quoted as a contradiction to the idea of reincarnation. As can be seen below, the common translation states die once, and then one could also live only once. What has here been translated as “once” is the Greek word hapax. The word can be translated in different ways.  The main dictionaries give, a.o., the following alternatives: 1. “once, one (single) time”; 2. “at some time”; 3. “once for all”, 4. “at once, suddenly” and 5. once in relation to repetition, i.e., “once again, once more”. How is then the word to be understood?


The word hapax appears in the Bible only at the following locations, where it is commonly translated as “once” (here according to the King James Version):


The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews:


For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were partakers of the Holy Ghost...


But into the second [tabernacle] went the high priest alone once every year [cf 5. above], not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.


And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.


So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.


For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.


Whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more [cf. 5. above] I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 


The General Epistle of Jude:


Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.


I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believe not.


The word once can here in a rather general manner be understood in the same sense as when I say:  “I once was in London, and then...”, which doesn't mean that I have been there only once. It rather means: “one of several times” und can often be expressed as “one day”. Compare also what difference the stress makes: “one day” and “one day”... Hence we can also understand 9,27-28 in the following manner:


And as it is appointed unto men to one day die, after which follows the judgment; so Christ was one day offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear a second time without sin unto [their] salvation.”


Another way of understanding is, since the verb apothanein comes after hapax and is in aorist: “once [they have] died” (cf 2. above), i.e.: “And as it is appointed unto men that once they have died follows the judgment ...


As concerns the offering of Jesus once, the following may be remarked. There will certainly be no one who would claim that he came to be only in the womb of Mary and didn't exist before. One denies the preexistence of man, but the preexistence of Christ cannot be denied, since he even said about himself: “Before Abraham was, I am” (Joh. 8,58). (We can hardly call the preexistent Christ as Jesus, since this name was given to him only by Joseph and Mary.) Therefore, Jesus was an incarnation of the preexistent Christ.

Since Christ existed from the beginning of times: How could we exclude that he may have once (or at least once) before appeared to humanity in an incarnated shape, and then also with a message of salvation? And if that would be so, he would also at that time have somehow died (physically speaking). Therefore, the word hapax may also in Hebr. 9.28 not necessarily mean “only once”.


It must, furthermore, be stressed that what is written in the letter to the Hebrews is the personal opinion of Paul and not Jesus’ own words. It is a considerably later view. The dispute about a word is, therefore, a dispute about arguments and at most evidence, but it has no definitive proof value in this matter.